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Reserve Troops Renewing Call for Pay Relief

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msgadget Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 08:56 PM
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Reserve Troops Renewing Call for Pay Relief
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Advocates for Activated Guard, Reserve Troops Renewing Calls for Pay Relief

By Stephen Barr

Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page B02

On this Veterans Day, about 180,000 members of the National Guard and reserves are serving on active military duty. Surveys show that 40 percent of them make less money while mobilized than they earn in their civilian jobs.

Congress has been wrangling over how to address the "pay gap" for 18 months, mostly without success. A number of proposals that would require the government and other employers to make up the difference between civilian and military pay have been blocked or stripped out of defense bills, apparently because of their cost.

But the compensation issue probably will come up again next week when Congress flies in for its lame-duck session. A coalition of 35 military and veterans organizations is pressing the House for prompt action on legislation that would permit Guard and reserve members to make penalty-free withdrawals from their employer-sponsored retirement plans to help them cope with any financial squeeze.

More than 410,000 members of the National Guard and reserves have been activated for duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists slammed hijacked jetliners into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Of the 120,000 federal employees in the reserves, about 21,000 will serve on active duty in fiscal 2005, according to a congressional estimate.

No data indicate how many federal employees called to active duty suffer a reduction in pay. Surveys of all Guard and reserve personnel found that among mobilized troops whose pay was cut, the average reduction was $3,000, although some took pay cuts in the tens of thousands.

"These citizen-soldiers and their employers need and deserve some financial relief from the disruption of active military service," the Military Coalition, which represents more than 5.5 million current and former service members and families, said this week in a letter to House leaders urging approval of the bill that would allow activated troops to avoid tax penalties if they tap their retirement...
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